Parenting thoughts: On Being Consistent

Once upon a time there was a mom who heard the advice to "be consistent." It was me. I heard it from many sources and in many contexts. I've applied and misapplied the advice to "be consistent" over the course of a dozen years of parenting. Now I have a few things to say about it. 

  • Be consistent does NOT mean you can't change your mind -- even in the middle of a power struggle. I can't tell you how many times I've walked it back when I've gotten to the breaking point. My husband's calm perspective has helped me realize that the most important thing to be consistent with is not being consistent in following up on a threat, it's being consistent in loving and teaching the kids. 
  • Be consistent does NOT mean you can't apologize to your child. You can apologize when you've lost your temper. It won't teach the kids that their poor choice was actually fine. If you teach your kids at planned, happy times about the behavior you expect from them, they'll get it. And they'll appreciate and emulate your apologies.  
  • Be consistent in giving your children limits. Teach your children the limits and expectations when everyone is calm, happy and in a place of love. This will require you to plan ahead, so that you're not trying to teach right behavior just a moment after you stop poor behavior. Planning calm times to teach your kids is hard, but that's ok, you're an adult. Setting times for things and following through is a great area in which to be consistent. There are great times to "teach as you go" and "teach in the moment." But if you don't set aside times to teach behavior that are unconnected to your child's current behavior, you're being more consistent in criticism than in teaching. 
  • Be consistent does NOT mean "do things the same way for each of your children." 
  • Be consistent means keep the promises you made when you were calm, happy and thinking rationally.
  • Be consistent means apply those consequences for behavior you laid out when you and your child were calm, happy and thinking rationally. 
  • Be consistent in loving your children.
  • Be consistent in teaching your children.

Do you have any parenting wisdom to share? I've been enjoying reading The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. Not done with it yet, but I like it so far!

1 comment:

  1. These are really great clarifications on the old platitude. Thanks!


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